A NORTH-EAST derby was the prize pairing in Monday’s third round draw of the FA Women’s Cup.
The Tees-Wear match-up was the first tie to emerge from the hat, with in-form Middlesbrough no doubt purring at the prospect of a tilt against the Lady Black Cats, at Thornaby FC, on Sunday, January 3.
Sunderland, the Premier League National Division champions and unbeaten leaders, were the highest ranked side in the draw, having been exempt until the third round stage.
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It extended Boro’s run of home draws to four, having so far disposed of visitors Curzon Ashton, 6-4, Peterlee St Francis, 5-2, and, in the second round, last Sunday, Huddersfield Town, 4-1.
Jess Round scored twice, with Dani Scarr and skipper Sarah Manning adding the others in a comfortable victory for Gemma Grainger’s side.
Newcastle United’s 2-0 win against Midland Combination side Radcliffe Olympic in the second round earned them another home tie against lower league opposition.
Plymouth Argyle, of the South West Combination, face the trip to Coach Lane on Sunday February 3.
Beth Gardner put United a goal up after half-an-hour, but a ring rusty Newcastle side had to wait until the 89th minute to ensure victory when Sarah Wilson scrambled home.
The only North-East side to fail to advance from the second round were Durham Wildcats, whose run through four rounds, from the first qualifying stage onwards, ended with a 4-2 defeat at Retford, against Sheffield United Community FC.
Holders Sunderland turn their attentions back to the League Cup as they host Sheffield FC, at the Hetton Centre, Hetton-le-Hole, in the second round, on Sunday (2pm).
The game is a match-up between the unbeaten leaders of both the National and Northern divisions, albeit with Sunderland heavy favourites, having put Sheffield to the sword 4-1 in the first round group stage of the competition, in September.
Sunderland preserved their unbeaten record at the top of the National Division table only after last Sunday’s 2013 opener at the Hetton Centre was abandoned with Manchester City a goal up going into the last six minutes.
Krystle Johnston turned in a hopeful cross after 28 minutes and City were left to hang on, with both bar and post being rattled during a second- half Sunderland onslaught.
But the match was brought to a premature end as City keeper Danielle Brown suffered a serious knee injury following a tussle with Sunderland’s Abby Holmes on 84 minutes.
Following a half-hour delay awaiting the arrival of emergency services, the match was brought to a close by the referee, to be replayed.
With both Watford and Leeds picking up wins it narrowed the gap at the top to just two points.
Newcastle United play their first Northern Division game in almost two months as second-placed Preston North End are the visitors at Coach Lane, Benton, on Sunday (2pm).
In the Northern Combination, Chorley finally edged back ahead of South Durham and Cestria at the top of the table after coming from 2-0 down to beat Stockport County 3-2, with all their goals in a final 20- minute flurry.
South Durham’s fixture at Mossley Hill on Merseyside was postponed, leaving them to kick-start 2013 at home to Stockport County, at Brinkburn Road, Darlington on Sunday.
Middlesbrough’s first league fixture of the year sees Boro head to Merseyside on Sunday to face a Liverpool Feds side left red-faced after a shock FA Cup exit, beaten 6-3, at Morecambe.